"...When Joseph arrived at Shechem, a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, 'What are you looking for?' He replied, 'I'm looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?' 'They have moved on from here,' the man answered. 'I heard them say, "Let's go to Dothan." ' So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan." (Genesis 37:14b-17 NIV)
For some reason, the picture of Joseph wandering about in the fields of Shechem is a vivid one for me. [Maybe it is because Joseph is a teenager, and my husband and I have several teenagers at home.] I can picture him trying to carry out his father's orders, yet being unsure about where to head next. I also think about what might have happened if God had not protected Joseph from others who may have been traveling through the area. Had other Shechemite men survived because they had not been at Shechem on the day Simon and Levi carried out the killing of the city's men? Would they, or any of the surrounding people groups have been able to connect Joseph with the nearby Israelites, perhaps by accent or dress?
Some try to say that the man who found Joseph wandering in the fields (and directed him towards Dothan) was God, or an angel. It is possible, but I think we would have been given some indication of this in the text. I do, however, see God's hand in directing Joseph safely on his way through this individual, whoever he was. Wandering about alone in Shechem would definitely not be a wise idea.
Speaking of safety issues, it is significant, I think, that Joseph was even willing to take on this task. There probably would have been consequences if he had not been obedient to his father's commands, but on some level Joseph must have also been motivated by love and concern for his brothers. Otherwise I think he would have given up the search when he couldn't find them at Shechem. By the way, Dothan was a significant city, located about 13 miles north of Shechem. Yep, 13 miles. I think Joseph loved his brothers. Otherwise, why would he continue to search for those who hated him?
[That does bring to mind a certain other Individual who came to seek even those who hated Him: